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Instagram Influencers

Who Are Influencers?

Instagram influencers are people or brands who have already developed a successful persona. In this post I talked about how foundational a persona is, and stressed the importance of developing the type of persona that your audience actually appreciates and wants to engage with.

Now, when you think of Instagram influencers, you probably think of celebrities, reality TV stars, and professional sports players. They certainly are influencers, but they’re not the only kind, and they’re certainly not the kind that you are going to want to reach out to. 

When I discuss Instagram influencers here, I’m simply referring to an Instagram persona, within your niche, that attracts a large amount of attention. These people may be competitors, or they may be hobbyists, or even passionate customers. 

Avoiding Fake Instragram Influencers

When influencers began to show up in social media, and began to be recognized as legitimate, impactful forces that could sway popular opinion, many online brands realized that they could capitalize on this new phenomena. Influencers began charging, and receiving, large sums of money to promote and partner with corporate brands.

This led to a rise of fake influencers – people or brands inflating their number of followers and engagement by using fake accounts. These accounts were not managed or controlled by people, but by programs called “bots”. An account could fake their clout by pointing to their numbers without divulging that those numbers were actually made up of mindless programs and not  actual people that could be converted into customers. 

Real Influence Means Real Engagement

The easiest way to root out fake Instagram influencers is by looking at their Engagement Ratio. Their Engagement Ratio is calculated by dividing their number of engagements on a post by their number of followers.

For example, if an account has over 100K followers, but the number of likes on their posts averages in the single or double digits, then you can be fairly certain that the influencer is a fraud, and most of their followers are fake. 

3 Signs of Fake Instagram Influencers

In addition to low engagement, there are a few other signs that an influencer may not be legitimate.

They Have an Equal Following and Follower Ratio

In certain circles, Instagram users exchange followings. That is “I’ll follow you if you follow me”. Although there’s nothing particularly wrong with that strategy, it does not represent real influence. 

People are not following the account because they’re attracted by their persona and interested in their content, they’re following them purely to get a follow in return. Engaging with these “influencers” is not a worthy use of your time or money. 

They Advertise Their “Influencer” Status

If it’s obvious from the profile description that an account will sell shout outs, then it’s likely that their shout outs are not worth your time or money. It indicates that they are not necessarily passionate about their niche, but are interested in making money.

Again, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that by itself, but it is a bad sign. The best Instagram influencers are hobbyists. They’re in the niche because they have a passion for it, whether they get paid for that passion or not. These people are genuine and because of that, their followers trust them and their recommendations.

People who operate in the niche purely to make money are not genuine, and their followers know it. When they promote products, services, or brands, their followers don’t take it seriously because they know that the endorsement has been bought and not earned.

They Don’t Specialize in a Niche

Faux influencers make their money by rotating through profitable niches. By getting a large following and focusing on a wider range of niches, these people are able to attract the attention of more advertisers from the niches that they know the advertisers are most interested in. 

The downside to this strategy (for you) is that their followers aren’t common in their interests, and so the audience is not as targeted as the influencer may try to portray.

Getting Started with Influencers

There are two ways to reach out with influencers. The first way is straightforward and is a basic “customer” and “service provider” relationship. You pay the influencer a fee and in return they give you a shout out. This is the most common arrangement. It’s easy to do, but it will cost you more money.

The other way to reach out to influencers is with the intent of becoming “allies”. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that does not require any payment from either party. The challenge with this approach is two-fold:

  1. Many influencers are simply not interested in this
  2. In order for this to work, you really need to have something of value to offer. Don’t delude yourself on this. You have to be able to offer quantitative value. That value must be realistically equated to whatever amount of money would appeal to the influencer. 

Instagram Influencers as Service Providers

How to Find Influencers

If you’ve been operating within your niche for any length of time, it’s likely that you already know who many of the influencers are. However, when you’re first getting started, it can be difficult to know how to find influencers. 

Influencers in your niche may be:

  • Bloggers
  • Vloggers
  • Authors
  • Social Media Personalities
  • Industry Experts
  • Etc.

To find them, search for your niche in Social Media and on Google. See what names, brands, and blogs pop up. You can also pay attention to your competitors and see what influencers they work with. 

It may be that the influencers you find right off the bat are too big and expensive for you. If that appears to be the case, dig into their network. Like tends to attract like, and so many big influencers tend to engage with smaller influencers that might be more appropriate for you.

Do this over and over again until you’ve built up a sizable list of influencers – say between 20 and 50, depending on your niche. 

Start Small

Just like your other marketing efforts, you should start small. Have a small budget – even as low as $5.00 or $10.00. 

Once you have your list of influencers, and your budget, you can begin reaching out. Contact them and ask “Can I get a shout out (or promoted post) for $5.00?”. Frankly, most of them will say no. Most people tend to over-value themselves, and that’s okay. This is a numbers game, and it’s likely that in working through your list of 20 to 50 influencers, you’ll only find a few that are willing to negotiate within your budget.

It’s important that you be willing to negotiate as well. If you’re not able or willing to increase your budget, then you might be able to offer one of the following to sweeten the deal:

  • Give them a free product or product sample
  • Promote them and their content in return
  • Offer them a percentage of profits gained from their shout out
  • Offer them and their followers perpetual discounts using a special code

See what other ideas you can come up with. When you go to an influencer with a small budget, you are coming from a position of weakness. The purpose of sweetening the deal is to get you and your influencer on the same level so that the relationship can be successful.

Your Influencer Campaigns

Your influencer campaigns will depend largely on what your influencer is willing to do and on your goals in working with that influencer. The following are just a few ideas of how you might align your goals with your influencer’s involvement:

Tracking Campaign Effectiveness

As with any marketing campaign, once it’s been launched – once your influencers have promoted your brand or reviewed your product – you need to track progress towards your goal. Ideally you will see a spike in followers, engagement, or purchases following an influencer campaign. 

As you run these campaigns, track which influencers actually provide meaningful results for you, and then focus your energy on building a relationship with them and their peers. 

Instagram Influencers as Allies

The other way to reach out to influencers is as an “ally”. To do this, try to engage their interest, emphasize shared passions, and build rapport. 

Because so many strategies for engaging with possible allies have already been covered in my post on Creating Strategic Alliances, we’re going to forego covering them here. However, many of those strategies can be easily adapted for use on Instagram instead of Facebook. 

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